Vores nye udstilling STOFSKIFTER åbnede i går! Tak til alle dem, der mødte op. Her er åbningstalen, som kurator og lektor Adam Bencard holdt.
“Thank you Ken, and hello everyone, my name is Adam Bencard; I am Associate Professor here at Museion. And I have also been curator for the exhibition that we’re opening today. I would like to say just a few words about why we’re so happy and excited to show the works of Thomas Feuerstein here at Museion and why we thinks his works is an exceptionally good fit both conceptually and aesthetically to a lot of our other activities.
So, why were we so keen to get Thomas Feuerstein’s works to Copenhagen?
Now, let me start by saying that I’m not an art historian or an art curator, so take what I say with a grain of salt. But to me, the works of Thomas Feuerstein actually introduces a new ism in art – not cubism or abstract expressionism, but rather metabolism. He makes – in our eyes – metabolic art.
But what does that mean, exactly? Metabolism, or stofskifte as it is called in Danish, stofwechslung in German, is, in short the process of life – the trillions of chemical transformations fundamental to life, to being a human organism in constant exchange with its environment. It is, in short, the myriads of “chemical processes that occur within a living organism in order to maintain life”.
Metabolism is, as some of you might know, something we have been preoccupied with for some years here at Museion. We’ve been interested the complex relationship between mind and gut, between digestion and emotion. This latest manifested itself in the exhibition Mind the Gut, which we opened last year. In Mind the Gut, we explored the complicated relationship between brains and bowels through science, art, medical history and patient perspectives. We’ve done it both because metabolism is a key area of biomedical science to understand, and because we’ve found it to be rich metaphor for contemporary attention to the body as a complex of interacting systems in dialogue with each other and the environment. In fact, my good colleague Louise Whiteley has coined the term ‘metabolic humanities’ as platform for a new research program here at the museum.
So, metabolism or stofskifte is a key part of practicality all processes of organic life: development, transformation, build up, breakdown, decay. The chemical actions of all organs and their functions, developmental transformation, of diseases and of our physiological relationship to the environment. Or as the philosopher Hans Jonas describes the pervasiveness of metabolism: “The exchange of matter with the environment is not a peripheral activity engaged in by a persistent core: it is the total mode of continuity of the subject of life itself.”
And these themes – the breakdown and buildup and exchange of matter, and the ways in which they weave into our everyday life, how they are commercialized by financial interests, how they weave into our everyday life – are all recurrent themes in Thomas Feuersteins works. He casts, I think, a metabolic gaze upon the world, seeing all the myriads of material processes happening everywhere, all the time, and his art reflects this gaze.
It is in this context, that the Danish title of the exhibition should be understood.
As I mentioned, Stofskifte is the Danish translation of metabolism, similar to the German ‘stofwechslung’. Stof is matter and skifte is exchange or transformation. So ‘stofskifte’ is literally ‘matter transformation’.
So, the title has a triple meaning in it. First, ‘stofskifter’ is metabolisms, plural – there are many metabolisms in the exhibition, not least including the visitors. Secondly ‘Stofskifter’ can also be taken apart a bit, so its stof – skifter, matter changes or matter transforms, pointing to the inherent transformative potential and necessity for all life. And finally, Stofskifter can also be seen as someone who is a ‘stofskifter’, someone who actively changes matter into new forms. And that, I think, is a possible metaphor for your role as an artist, Thomas – you are a ‘stofskifter’, someone whose artistic practice is about changing matter into new forms, and lets those processes of transformation be embedded within your sculptures, paintings, the alcohol you produce, and the many other medium you work through.
And now, to the thank you’s – first and foremost thanks to Jens Hauser. Without his curatorial experience and international network in the art world, this exhibition would not have happened. The exhibition came about as a contribution to the upcoming international conference here in Copenhagen on the 13-16th of June by the European branch of the Society for Science, literature and the Arts, or SLSA for short. Jens is chairing the conference this year, and the theme is ‘Green’. The conference promises to be incredibly rich and stimulating, including keynotes by Anna Tsing and Thomas Feuerstein, an evening event here at Museion and an entire Friday evening at Statens Museum for Kunst. You can still sign up for the conference, it will be amazing!
Let me end by saying thank you to the team that helped make the exhibition: Caroline Thon, Niels Vilstrup, Nanna Gerdes, Mathe Boye Bjerregaard, Bente Vinge Pedersen, and the rest of the staff at Museion. And finally, thank you to Thomas and Eva, you have been consummate professionals and really nice to boot. I hope we can continue our collaborations and explore metabolic art some more!
And now, it is time to pay attention to our metabolisms – both artistically and physiologically. There is both something green and something sugary in the reception room to the right, and the exhibition is now open!”